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A Ravenna derby family comprising fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers and friends, has been working since March at an auto body shop in Ravenna to get their derby cars running for their first demolition derby of the year at the Portage County Randolph Fair.
"It's a bunch of adrenaline junkies," said Mike Meduri, of Ravenna, in his fifth year of derbying. "There's eight of us that derby, but there's about 30 or 40 of us in the family. We take a lot of pride. We have fun. It's a typical family. There's dysfunction, fighting, laughter, tears."
Meduri's mom June said she's glad to be a part of this extended derby family.
"It's exciting," June said. "My dad was a mechanic and I'm glad to see him putting some of that to use. The first one is a little nerve-wracking, but he's out there doing it week after week and barely is anyone hurt, so go for it, have fun."
Frank and Candy Christy own Collision Craft and open up their shop after business hours for the guys to work on their cars. The group spends about nine months out of the year, three days a week building the junk cars, just to smash them up in the derby.
"The three months we spend building them is more impressive than the 30 minutes we spend running them," Darrell Rhodabach said. "Everyone one of us we all build our cars and work together."
We take the cars completely apart and put them back together to reengineer and reinforce them, derby driver DJ Paulat said.
"We're allowed to modify the front end," Paulat said. "It's easier to take it apart and rebuild. None of this would be possible without Frank and Candy allowing us to come in and use the lift and tools, but also Frank also knows a lot about what to do. We call him Master Splinter."
After years of watching her dad Vince drive in the derby and running the power wheels races, Kelsie Hamrick, 12, will run in the youth division derby at the Randolph Fair for the first time. Vince will drive in the truck division. He had his first car in 2000 and has been building cars and driving in derbys across northeast Ohio ever since.
"I grew out of it because I didn't fit in the car," Kelsie said. "She wanted something faster," Vince laughed.
Meduri's car pays tribute to his brother Mark, a United States Marine who died in service, and his fiancee's father Bill Davis.
"We all have something we're driving for," Meduri said. "My brother passed away in 2012 serving the U.S. Marine Core. While I was building this my fiancee's dad passed away. This past year putting that on the car her whole family was here. It's nice because the derby showcases that and people see that from the stands."
Meduri's longtime friend, Chris Villers, who has been riding in the derby for the longest, got him into derbying after his brother passed.
"It started as a release, but then it was fun," Meduri said. "You go out there. You can hear the fans cheering. The harder you drive, the harder they cheer. That's what you do it for. You don't do it for the money or the trophies. It's all for the fans."
A week before the derby, the family will get together and paint their cars and write messages on them. The cars will be ready to drive at the demolition derby at Randolph Portage County Fair this August.
"We keep each other going," Meduri said. "This is how we have fun. I can't wait to ride with these guys."
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